Re-enactors bring Civil War to life w/ Fourth of July Events

 photos by Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

photos by Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

Sunny Spencer's hoop skirt rustles as she walks along the boardwalk at the Nevada State Railroad Museum and chats politely about days gone by.

Spencer, of Carson City, was among the members of the Comstock Civil War Re-enactors who brought history to life at the museum Saturday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

"We're here helping to show both locals and visitors a little bit about American history," Spencer said. "We try to show how America lived 150 years ago."

The CCWR group set up a tent city on the museum grounds with two camps - for the union and the confederacy - and staged battles throughout the day for control of the steam train.

"In those days, you had to do things for yourself," she said, "so the ladies knitted or crocheted items that became heirlooms."

Spencer pointed out the ladies area of the Civil War town where women were gathered in period dress to drink tea or perhaps do some quilting or other needlework.

Jeannette McHugh talked about the Sanitary Commission which provided health supplies and nourishing food to the soldiers.

"Mark Twain described an event on C Street in Virginia City where they were raising money for the sanitary commission," McHugh said. "Per capita, Nevada raised more money for that than any other state."

Visitors to the museum can walk around in the tent city and talk with the re-enactors who love to share Civil War history, Spencer said.

The 25-minute steam train ride with battles continues today with the Virginia & Truckee No. 25 steam locomotive pulling a passenger train made up of V&T cars more than 100 years old. Tickets for a ride on the steam train cost $5 for adults 12 and older, $3 for children 4-11, and kids 3 and younger ride free.

Bill Kohse, a member of the CCWR from Eureka, Calif., said he's been participating with the group for about 40 years, and that it encompasses members from California and Oregon, as well as Nevada.

"My heritage goes back to the Confederacy. I have a real love of history, probably because I had a good high school history teacher, and I present a lot of programs for kids on the lifestyle of those times," Kohse said.

"I love Civil War history and I'm a rail buff too, so I'm in heaven here," he said.

Spencer explained that each of the battle trains this weekend contains a contingent of soldiers - either Union or Confederate - and the enemy soldiers attack the train by "killing or injuring" the traveling soldiers with "muskets" in order to gain control of the train.

"They wanted the use of the train for gold and silver or supplies," she said. "Railroads were extremely important."

Kohse pointed out that the North nationalized all the gauges of their train tracks, but the South had so many different gauges, it was unable to transport effectively.

"If the South had done things differently (with the rails), I guarantee you, the outcome of that war would have been different," he said.

On Monday the Fourth of July, the 1910 McKeen Motorcar - a $1 million recently completed restoration project - will be brought out for train rides. Tickets for a ride on the McKeen train cost $10 for adults 12 and older, $5 for children 4-11, and kids 3 and younger ride free.

Train rides help pay to operate the trains and the museum, said Roy Hargrave, a 75-year-old volunteer Ticket Agent.

"The response today has been tremendous. A lot of people have had a lot of fun," Hargrave said.

"We hope enough people come out this weekend and participate to help us pay for the operation and to keep the museum open," he said. "We're all volunteers, and it would take 13 state employees to take our place if we didn't volunteer."


What: Comstock Civil War Re-enactors steam train battles

Featuring: V & T No. 25 steam locomotive passenger train

When: Sunday

Times: 11:20 a.m., 2 p.m., 3:20 p.m.

Where: Nevada State Railroad Museum, 2180 S. Carson St.

Cost: $5 adults 12 and older; $3 children 4-11; free for 3 and younger

Details: (775) 687-6953

What: Independence Day 1910 McKeen Motorcar train rides with music, Warren Engine Company No. 1's $5 barbecue

When: Monday

Where: Nevada State Railroad Museum, 2180 S. Carson St.

Ride Cost: $10 adults 12 and older; $5 children 4-11; free for 3 and younger

Details: (775) 687-6953


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